AuthorTopic: Violence and Nonviolence As a Tactic and Strategy in Social Protest  (Read 689 times)

Offline RE

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On the Question of Violence and Nonviolence As a Tactic and Strategy Within the Social Protest Movement

An Anarchist Perspective

by David Van Deusen / April 14th, 2017

(Author’s Note: The essay was first published not so long after the Battle of Seattle as a pamphlet by Black Clover Press, Montpelier VT, 2001. It has not previously been available in other formats.)

Peaceful protesters attacked by police in Seattle, 1999


Militancy and direct action are not only necessary tactical tools for the anarchist left, but, when correctly implemented, they are also the facilitators of inspiration and motivation for both those involved with the act in question and those who observe the act in question. It is such activity that helps draw numbers into the movement by creating an outlet for the venting of frustration and alienation. In short, militancy and direct action, by challenging the entrenched power of the wealthy ruling class and state, fosters a sense of empowerment upon those who partake, while also furthering creative aspirations by hinting at what a revolution toward a non-oppressive society might feel like.

Of course, militancy and direct action do not carry the inherent qualification of being violent or nonviolent in and of themselves. The slashing of management’s car tires during a labor dispute, as well as erecting of barricades and subsequent rioting against the forces of the State during a pro-working class demonstration are both clearly militant actions, but so too is a non-violent workers’ factory occupation during a strike as well as occupying major city intersections and shutting down of financial districts during a protest against neoliberalism.

Clearly there are many circumstances in which non-violent tactics are not only advisable, but also the only effective course possible. Furthermore, tactical nonviolence is always the preferred course of action when its outcome can bring about the desired objective and subjective results more effectively or as effectively as a violent act. Such practices should be encouraged and taught throughout the anarchist and leftist movement generally in order to maintain a moral superiority over the forces of capital and the state, who, of course, practices both overt and covert violence with little discrimination on a consistent basis. This commitment to nonviolence is fundamentally based on pragmatism and revolutionary ethics, while finding its material existence through the implementation of tactics. However, nonviolence should, under no circumstances, be understood as a strategy in and of itself. When nonviolence is used as a strategy it transcends its existence as a descriptive term and defines itself as an idea, a noun, as “pacifism”; it becomes an ideology.

When nonviolence is used correctly, as a tactic, it is a most useful tool in the popular struggle. The reason for this is because such a display of resistance is indicative of an underlying threat of violence. For if people are willing to put themselves on the line for the sake of liberty, and if these people are willing to risk bodily harm in such an action, it displays a level of commitment, which, if turned in a violent manner, could manifest itself in the form of a future insurrection; an insurrection where if critical mass is attained could threaten the foundation of state power; that of the ruling class and the underlying anti-culture.

Ironically the victories of the Civil Rights Movement in the South during the 1950’s and ‘60’s owes a lot to the inherent threat of violence. In this case, the southern leadership, embodied in Martin Luther King Jr., expounded upon the need for nonviolence to be utilized as a strategy. However, this movement did not take place in a vacuum. Parallel to the happenings in the South, a movement for black liberation was being launched in the North, and elsewhere, as embodied in the Nation of Islam, later in an autonomous Malcolm X, and then in the Black Panther Party (BPP), and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC, a group which formally rejected strategic nonviolence while under the leadership of Stokely Carmichael. This aspect of the movement displayed signs of extreme militancy and was not pacifistic in rhetoric or in character. To the government this represented the logical alternative to which the movement as a whole would turn if certain terms were not ceded to the pacifistic element in the South. The much trumpeted success of the Southern Civil Rights Movement’s pacifistic strategy has, despite itself, much to thank to the threat of violence

In the following essay, I will elaborate on the above theme. First, I will discuss situations where political violence in not only necessary, but ethically justifiable. Second, I will discuss the natural disjunction between strategic nonviolence and the poor and working classes, and finally, I will discuss the contemporary bourgeois roots of pacifism as an ideology of the status quo.

When Violence is Necessary

The fact is that there are times when the only way to effectively advance a movement is through the use of violence. Sometimes, this necessity is clearly in reaction to particular act of state violence, other times it is due to more general circumstances. Either way, justifiable acts of leftist/working class violence are always fundamentally an act of self-defense insofar as the very institutions of the capitalist state inherently constitute continuing physical and psychological violence against the great mass of its people.

More concretely, violence can be understood as absolutely necessary during certain phases of popular struggle.

This occurs when:

    Nonviolent options have been explored yet no ostensible victory has been reached.

In the face of exploitation and oppression, inaction is akin to no action, and hence is tacit acceptance and support of those evils. In addition, the continued implementation of proven ineffectual tactics in the face of these evils must be considered akin to inaction, in that ineffectual tactics translates into the same end result; continued exploitation and oppression of the poor and working class by the hands of the ruling class, bourgeoisie and their lackeys. Thus, it would follow that there may arise circumstances, after the exploration of peaceful options, where the only ethical course available to a movement, or individual, is of a violent kind.

    Whenever State oppression becomes violent, to the point where the movement itself or large segments of the population or the premises on which the people subsist are threatened with liquidation.

The physical self-defense of a people, a movement, or the premises upon which they subsist, is a self-evident right, obvious in the natural world. To claim otherwise is to deny the bravery, justness and dignity of Sitting Bull and the Lakota of the 1870’s, the Jews of Warsaw during the Nazi occupation of the 1940’s, the Cuban’s defense at the Bay of Pigs in the early 1960’s, the man who vanquishes the would-be murderer of his child, and the woman who manages to physically fight off a would-be rapist. To allow for otherwise is nothing but a neurotic self-denying tendency and an unnatural will to suicide.

    Violence must be understood as a looming fact once the critical mass necessary to seriously challenge a ruling class and state power is domestically reached.

To believe that the state will voluntarily relinquish its power in the face of a moral challenge is as childish and absurd as it is dangerous. History, without exception, has shown that a parent state will react to any legitimate or perceived threat to its domestic power with a ruthless violent suppression of the threat. If that means the murder of large sections of its own population, so be it. Pacifism in the face of such repression translates into no more than the eradication of the insurrectional movement through the means of murder to the sum of absolute death. Once the state finds itself backed into the proverbial corner, it can be expected to act by animalistic instinct; in short, it will fight for its life and will not relinquish until either itself or all of its foes are dead. Let us not forget the 30,000 fallen heroes of the Paris Commune whose blood will forever stain the consciousness of modern France.

Some would argue that the above claim is proven false by the historical fact of Mahatma Gandhi’s pacifistic movement; a movement which did succeed in liberating India from direct British imperial rule. However, such a line of argument does not apply in this case, as that particular case did not occur inside a primary capitalist nation. Rather it occurred on the edges of a crumbling empire. The response of the British government would have differed radically if the movement had occurred inside one of its perceived, primary domestic provinces, or if it were a general domestic movement against the state apparatus itself. The former of which is born out in the fact that the present situation in Northern Ireland has its contemporary roots in the 1960’s nonviolent Catholic Civil Rights Movement.

Therefore, if the goal of the anarchists and the left generally is not self-eradication through a violent counter reaction and the subsequent consolidation of oppressive forces, it will recognize nonviolence for what it is; a tactic, not a strategy.

Pacifism as Foreign to the Poor and Working Classes

One must also question the ability of a nonviolent movement to generate the critical mass necessary to substantially challenge the entrenched fundamental power structure of the nation/state. Since the death of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, pacifism has failed to attract any significant numbers outside of the upper middle and wealthy classes. The reason for such failure is that pacifism does not commonly attract members of the working and sub-working class because it bears no resemblance to their experience of reality or their values and shared history of struggle.

If one’s goal is to aid in the building of a serious revolutionary movement, one must be sure that movement is inclusive to those classes that inherently possess revolutionary potential. Thus, it is necessary to construct a movement which is empirically relevant to poor and working class reality. This not only means agitation on their behalf, but also utilizing a strategy which is consistent with the developing/potential class consciousness of such a constituency. If a movement fails to do such, it will fail to draw the necessary critical mass from those classes and in turn will fail to achieve its supposed goals. Furthermore, such failures are probably indicative of the co-option of that movement by ideological prejudices imported from the bourgeoisie; most likely in the form of upper-middle class activists present in the left. Nonviolence, as a strategy is a perfect example of such counterproductive prejudices.

I have often heard discussions among upper-middle class activists about the need to stay away from violent confrontations with the state at demonstrations in order to “not turn people off”. The fact is the only people who are likely to be automatically turned off by legitimate acts of self-defense are upper middle class and wealthy types who will most likely never be won over to the side of revolution anyway. On the other hand, it is common that folk from within the poor and working classes are inspired by the direct and unobstructed confrontations with the forces of the status quo. These communities appreciate the honesty, dignity, and bravery that popular self-defense demands. These are the future agents of revolution and they are not as easily turned away by the truth that real struggle entails. Violent self-defense on behalf of, and through a constituency emanating from their class, is a more pure expression of their collective frustrations brought on from alienation and made objective through their continuing poverty or sense of slavery through accumulated debt.

To further illustrate this all one has to do is look at the various strikes, demonstrations, protests, riots, etc., of the past two years to see how those from within the poor and working classes have conducted themselves when confronted with state violence and restraint. Here we can observe the violent uprising of the poor and working class black folk within Cincinnati (April 2001), the anti-capitalist riots of the Quebecois youth A20 (anti-FTAA demo, Quebec City, April 2001), the numerous Black Bloc anti-capitalist actions throughout North America and Europe (Seattle, 1999, through Genoa, 2001) the armed peasant uprisings from Bolivia to Nepal, the massive militant protests of the Argentine working class against the neoliberal policies of the capitalist government (summer, 2001), the violent union strikes within South Korea, as well as countless other examples of poor and working class resistance the world over.

Compare these developing mass movements composed of persons squarely within the more oppressed economic classes to the relatively impotent and groundless protests of strictly nonviolent upper middle class “reformers”. Two decades of liberal dominance within the left, from the late 1970’s through the later 1990’s, resulted in little or no tangible victories, and often resulted in isolating left wing politics from its supposed mass working class base. These liberals, democratic socialists, non-government organizations (NGO’s), etc., failed to deliver a mass movement of an oppressed constituency. All they did manage to deliver was countless boring protests, which rarely even received media coverage of any kind, and Walter Mondale, as the losing alternative to Ronald Reagan in the 1984 U.S. Presidential election.

The basic fact is, the strategy of nonviolence is foreign to the poor and working classes, and any grouping which places such an ideology ahead of the real desires and inclinations of the masses of exploited people will inevitably remain marginalized, isolated, and ineffectual. Here they become no more than the would-be mediators of continuing alienation and oppression, if only with a dash more of welfare programs and workplace safety boards.

Pacifism is foreign to the social reality of the workers. For example, few of us who grew up without the privilege of gross excess capital did so without learning the value of knowing how to fight. Unequivocal nonviolence in grade school would have earned us the same thing it does in the political arena; further bullying, further oppression. An early lesson for many of us was the effectiveness of “standing up to the bully.” Such an act always carried with it the threat of violence, if not the implementation of violence. To take such a stand without such a commitment would have resulted in nothing more than a black eye. It is from this early age that the more oppressed classes learn the value of violence as a tool of liberation.

Historically, violence has proven to be politically relevant through union struggles and neighborhood fights against the exploitation of the poor and working class. The history of the labor struggle is a history of blood, death, and dignity. From the Pinkertons to the scabs, to the police, army, and National Guard; from lynching to fire bombings the U.S. Government, acting as the political ram of the ruling class, more often than not has forced the working class to defend itself through its only proven weapons; class-conscious organization and self-defense, when need be, through violence. This is a historical fact that is apparent in the social underpinnings of working class community, if not always consciously remembered by its inheritors.

In addition, the more advanced elements of the poor and working class has, for 150 years, been exposed to and has autonomously developed ideologies of liberations which not only map the current state of affairs and predict future trends, but also prescribe the justified use of violence as a necessary element of their own liberation. In turn, these ideologies, although often greatly flawed, have been a consistent traveler through the trials and tribulations of these workers since the dawn of the industrial age. When successes were found, these ideologies were also present. Although it is true that much leftist ideology is becoming a dinosaur of the past within primary capitalist nations (i.e. those espousing the various forms of authoritarian communism) it must be recognized that in and of itself it has been responsible for its own transcendence. It is part of the common history of struggle and even with its passing it reserves a place of prestige within the social unconscious of the past and present revolutionary struggle. You tell me how willing the more self-conscious elements of the poor and working classes are to deny this history.

Of course, violence should not be canonized. These same communities implement violence upon themselves in a destructive manner as well. Domestic violence, murder, and armed robbery of members of their own class is a reality in many poor and working class neighborhoods. But, these forms of internal violence can be attributed to alienation as experienced in an oppressive society. Thus, crime rates have historically plummeted in such neighborhoods during times of class autonomy (i.e. Paris 1871, Petrograd 1917-1921, Barcelona 1936-39). Of course, we should condemn such negative forms of violence and work toward their eradication, but we should do so without throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Violence, both of a positive and negative sort, is an element of poor and working class culture. Violence is also a proven tool of liberation in poor and working class ghettos, both in relation to the personal and the political. And finally this reality is further validated by ongoing world events and historical fact.

Nonviolence as a philosophic universal must be understood as the negation of the existence of the poor and working classes. And no, I do not solely mean their existence as an oppressed element; I mean their existence as a class which possesses a self-defined dignity through their ongoing struggle against alienation and exploitation.

Ideological nonviolence is the negation of their shared history of struggle. It denies their dreams of freedom by its sheer absurdity and stifles certain forms of their self-expression through its totalitarian and insanely idealistic demands. In a word, strategic nonviolence is the negation of class consciousness; it is irrelevant at best and slavery at worst. In itself, it represents the conscious and/or unconscious attempt of the more privileged classes to sterilize the revolutionary threat forever posed by a confident, self-conscious, and truly revolutionary working class.

Once again, it is conceivable that some would argue the contrary by pointing to poor and working class involvement in the nonviolent movement in Gandhi’s India and/or Martin Luther King Jr.’s Civil Rights Movement. However, the extent to which non-violence was accepted as a strategy by these classes is born out in the events which followed the initial successes of these respective movements. In India the same elements that partook in nonviolent actions quickly, and regrettably, fractioned off into two camps; the Hindu on the one hand and the Muslim on the other. Not long after, these factions had no qualms about mobilizing to fight successive wars against one another. Let us remember that both these factions today possess nuclear weapons, which are aimed at one another.

In the southern U.S. many of the same persons who marched with King also adopted a decidedly non-pacifistic strategy in the later days of SNCC, the formation of BPP chapters, and the Black Liberation Army cells throughout the region. In addition, let us not forget the riots which occurred upon the news of King’s assassination, turning the black ghettos across the U.S. into a virtual war zone. In the final analysis, both of these pacifistic movements must be recognized as only being such in the minds of their respected leadership. The masses of poor and working class people, which gave these movements their strength, never internalized nonviolence as a strategy; rather nonviolence was no more than a particular tactic to be used as long as its utility bore itself out.

Psychological Roots of Pacifism as a Bourgeois Ideology

So, if pacifism bears no resemblance to poor and working class reality and has no historical or sound philosophical base, what can its existence, as a strategy, be attributed to? The answer is: the deformed ideology of the progressive element of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie – in other words that of the classes composing the higher and lower levels of the wealthy privileged classes.

It is true that many individuals from these classes have become legitimate and outstanding revolutionaries through the process of becoming radicalized and declassed; Mikhail Bakunin, Karl Marx and Che Guevara to name but a few. And of course, there are many such individuals in our movement today. But, it is also true that many bourgeois elements present in the left still cling to their class privileges and prejudices as if a gilded crutch. They are oddballs in that they are bourgeois yet are driven by a self-loathing as facilitated by class guilt. On the one hand they wish to rectify the ills they feel responsible for, and on the other they are too unimaginative and weak of constitution to cleave themselves from their class privileges and the relative security that entails. Hence, they cling to the only political strategy which can, in their minds, both absolve them from their materials sins and maintain the status quo of their class security; in a word, they become pacifists. In this move they reject the dialectical materialism of both anarchism and communism by subjecting themselves to an idea at the expense of concrete experience.

Pacifism lacks any sound material bases. A quick observation of nature will tell you that the natural world is not without violence and human beings are not outside the natural world. Life is violent. Everything from the eruption of a volcano, to the lion’s killing of her prey, to human ingestion of a vegan meal, possesses a degree of violence. Think of all the weeds that were killed in the production of that tomato, or of all the living microorganisms that our body necessarily destroys through ingestion, or through the very act of breathing; that is violence.

Like the eighteenth century French philosopher Rene Descartes, these charlatans reject the fact of the body for the phantom of the mind. They create the idea of unconditional nonviolence and enslave themselves to it; instinct, lived experience, historical fact, be damned. Through their ideology they become the same beasts of dualism that have tethered the human race from Plato to Catholicism.

Pacifism is fundamentally at odds with anarchism in its view of the state. Pacifism functions by the maxim that the tacit and active perpetrators of oppression (i.e. the state through the ruling class) possess an inherent ability to rectify themselves if the true appalling nature of that oppression is unmasked to them. Hence, it is also assumed that the ruling class possesses the ability to make such an observation and that it will display the desire to make such change. Anarchism contends that the very existence of a state apparatus insures the continuing oppression of the exploited classes. This is due to the inherent tendency of power to corrupt those who possess it; and those who possess power seek to consolidate that power. The state apparatus tends to safeguard itself from such possibilities through the creation of bureaucratic institutions which entail a codified dogma specifically designed to maintain the status quo. With this development class oppression becomes an irreversible fact, within the statist paradigm, even in the unthinkable unlikelihood that large elements of the ruling class were to desire its radical reforming. In this sense the state is a self-propelling evil that is no more capable of eradicating class oppression than it is of eradicating itself; Frankenstein’s monster resurrected. Therefore, pacifism is fundamentally at odds with anarchism. Either the state is potentially a vehicle for liberation, or it is an institution of slavery. Plain and simple.

Bourgeois pacifists become modern ideologues of a confused status quo. They adhere to pseudo-rebellion, and in doing so they serve the function of bolstering the state through the implementation of a strategy that acts as an abstracted semblance of insurrection; a false, non-threatening insurrection squarely within the parameters of the predominant anti-culture. And here they defuse the revolutionary potential of any movement they touch by acting as the unconscious arm of the expanding anti-culture apparatus of false appearances and mundane stability. For as long as their strategy lacks any real potential to fundamentally challenge class bias and status quo; as long as such a strategy is devoid of the true ability to deconstruct the economic and cultural system that allows for the establishment of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie; as long as this strategy takes on a language of righteous and pious revolution, these self-loathing activities of a physical comfort can go to sleep at night both feeling redeemed through their rebellion and secure in knowing their tacitly oppressive luxury will be there for them again, tomorrow.

What further makes these pacifists oddballs, is the fact that through their pseudo-revolutionary activity they incur an alienated relationship with the less analytical elements of their own class, who in their ignorance constitute the class majority. These elements mistakenly view them as class traitors. This is ironic because nothing could be further from the truth. These people stand fundamentally in solidarity with their roots. And, if their activity has any ostensible effect on the larger movement, it is to prolong the day of insurrection, not to expedite it.

If left to their own delusions they would not deserve such discussion, but they, like Christian missionaries, seek to spread their neurotic illusion to new populations; in this case the poor and working classes. And in doing so they have infiltrated the leftists and anarchist movements and even now threaten to rob it of its pressing relevance by divorcing it from its learned experience.

The poor and working classes are naturally not drawn to pacifism. If pacifism becomes the prime mode of operation for leftists and anarchists organizations, these organizations will cease to have any legitimate tie to their natural constituents. Although it would be ignorant to contend that such an ideology will fail to gain a certain degree of reluctant converts among naturally opposing classes. If such irrationalities never occurred in society, Italian and German fascism would never have manifested themselves with the power that they did. In short, aspects of the poor and working classes can be expected to adopt a self-denying ideology if that ideology claims to offer liberation and if that movement in which it is contained appears to be the most prominent in the field. This is not to say that the true movement will be abolished through such a scenario, any more so than it denies the ultimate historical relevance of dialectical materialism, it is only to say that it will prolong the day of reckoning by robbing the oppressed classes of their truly revolutionary organizations.


Perhaps the best way to have repelled Franco’s fascist invasion of Spain in 1936 would have been for the C.N.T. and F.A.I. to hold a peaceful sit-in? Maybe Adolph Hitler would have reversed his genocidal policies and instead made strides towards a free society if enough Jews and gentiles would have peacefully marched in Berlin. If non-violence was the strategy of the Devil, he’d probably be ruling heaven right now… no.

In the end analysis, just as there is a place for tactical nonviolence, there is also a place for violence during certain phases of a popular movement. This can manifest as a tool of self-defense or as the midwife of state disembodiment. On the other hand, pacifism, as an ethical system of action, is nothing but an absurd dilution born out of resentment and fear and projected upon the struggles of the poor and working classes by oddball elements of the bourgeoisie. As long as such a strategy is allowed to occupy a prominent role among the ranks of the left, the left will equal the total sum of the socially inept ruling class.

In summation, nonviolence can be used in many circumstances as an effective tactic, but it is irrelevant, irresponsible, and utterly ridiculous to even consider it as a strategy. So, yes, nonviolence should be utilized as a tactic where pertinent, and in turn pacifism, as an ideology and a strategy, must be purged from our movement.

Dave Van Deusen is a past District Vice President and Member-At-Large of the Vermont AFL-CIO. He is also a writer and presently works as a Union Rep for a public employee union in Vermont. Van Deusen is a founding member of the Green Mountain Anarchist Collective. Read other articles by David.

This article was posted on Friday, April 14th, 2017 at 10:36am and is filed under Anarchism.
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Offline Palloy2

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Re: Violence and Nonviolence As a Tactic and Strategy in Social Protest
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2017, 09:14:58 PM »
For as long as their strategy lacks any real potential to fundamentally challenge class bias and status quo; as long as such a strategy is devoid of the true ability to deconstruct the economic and cultural system that allows for the establishment of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie; as long as this strategy takes on a language of righteous and pious revolution, these self-loathing activities of a physical comfort can go to sleep at night both feeling redeemed through their rebellion and secure in knowing their tacitly oppressive luxury will be there for them again, tomorrow.

Wow! Great stuff.   :emthup:   :emthup:   :emthup:

While agreeing with the general philosophy, I would point out that violent face to face confrontation with the fascist forces is not tactically smart.  Far better to lob a petrol bomb through the window of a bank, or a court house, or a Government office, at an unanticipated time, than to organise a violent mass confrontation on Facebook next Saturday at 11 am. 

Such actions are easily recognised for what they are, and easily copyable without any need for coordination.  No need for a Facebook account, which is deletable anyway, if not traceable and bug-able.  No need for being on a register of firearms owners.  Impossible to police completely, and very expensive to police even partially.

What it SHOULDN'T do is hurt any of the people who are your potential revolutionaries.  Have them cheer at the TV coverage instead.
"The State is a body of armed men."

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The most interesting thing to me in this story is that in looking at the pics and vids, the Demonstrators are starting to take my advice an SUIT UP! for these exercises in protest.  Just about everybody has Goggles of some kind on to protect the eyes from pepper spry and tear gas.  They all have at least a Bandana on to protect the nose and mouth somewhat for breathing.  Some carry wooden Shields to protect against Billy Club beatings.  Hard to say what they have on beneath the Black Pajamas, hopefully some good Hockey Pads or Football pads.  Hopefully also wearing steel toed boots and a metal cup for the Privates.

Other prep items from a Defensive standpoint would be Ear Plugs to protect against Sound Cannon and your own can of Bear Spray to "Pepper Back" anyone spraying you.  For Max protection, add a Kevlar Vest to the outfit and a full face Motorcycle Helmet.


The Berkeley rally aftermath: Mass arrests, a stabbing and weaponized Pepsi
By Avi Selk and Michelle Ye Hee Lee April 16 at 7:07 PM

Trump fans and foes clash in Berkeley

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Supporters and protesters of President Trump clashed on Saturday, April 15 in Berkeley, Calif. (Reuters)

A news station called it “something resembling a war zone.” A woman told the Los Angeles Times that it was “more of a riot.”

In any event, on Saturday, Berkeley, Calif., hosted its third recent clash between demonstrators who support President Trump and those who oppose him.

A park that normally sees produce stalls on the weekend was the scene of a stabbing, as reported by ABC 7, as well as at least 20 arrests and 11 injuries. Berkeley police confiscated several makeshift weapons.

(Courtesy of Berkeley Police Department)

And, yes, that’s apparently weaponized Pepsi sitting there — along with knives, sticks, a shield and cans of pepper spray.

In a widely panned commercial earlier this month, Pepsi had billed its product as a catalyst for peaceful protest. Instead, this happened:

    @Berkeley police confirm soda can filled with concrete to use as a weapon during #berkrally

    — Lisa Amin Gulezian (@LisaAminABC7) April 16, 2017

All this occurred despite police efforts to prevent a repeat of the violence and vandalism that occurred in the city in February, before a university canceled a scheduled talk by former Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos.

And again in early March, when about 500 pro- and anti-Trump demonstrators punched, sprayed and clubbed one another, according to local news reports.

So, after a pro-Trump group announced Saturday’s rally in Civic Center Park downtown, a farmers market that regularly opens next door closed as a precaution, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Police banned anything that could be used as a weapon — or had been in past rallies — such as pepper spray, mace, baseball bats and glass bottles. In a sweep of the park before the rally, they found a “realistic-appearing replica gun.”

But despite these measures, fistfights broke out. Protesters fired pepper spray into a crowd. Small explosions, often blamed on firecrackers, could be heard going off in a thick throng of people.

Members of a citizen militia in security gear showed up to protect the pro-Trump demonstrators. Police in riot gear separated both sides, the Times reported.

It wasn’t total chaos, though.

A citizen militia member told the Times that police were doing a good job of keeping people “chilled and relaxed” — despite sporadic fights.

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Although many people simply walked around chanting or counter-chanting, others ended up bloodied and injured, as seen in photos of the event.

Police said that seven people had to go to the hospital, and that several people were arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, with more arrests expected as investigators review videos of the event.

A previous version of this post incorrectly said February’s violence followed the university’s cancellation of Milo Yiannopoulos’s speech. It has been corrected to reflect that the violence preceded the cancellation.

A man is sprayed with a chemical irritant as fights break out between supporters and opponents of President Trump in Berkeley, Calif., on Saturday. (Getty Images)
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Offline RE

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Resistance in the 21st Century and the Futility of Reforming the Vicious
« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2017, 02:12:58 PM »

Resistance in the 21st Century and the Futility of Reforming the Fundamentally Vicious

by Tim Scott / April 16th, 2017

Out of necessity, organized resistance to the Trump administration’s authoritarian and hyper-violent policy agenda is growing rapidly, both domestically and internationally. Within this context, it is important for those of us who engage in individual and collective acts of resistance – based on our varying proximities to power structures – to consider what and how we resist by taking into account larger structural considerations.

A Brief History of Resistance in the United States

The political, economic and cultural foundations of the United States have consistently proven over time to have a unique ability to legally pacify, repress, vanquish, enslave, murder and inflict suffering on a massive scale. Due to this, there have been an abundance of collective efforts by marginalized and subjugated groups since the the birth of the nation to transform the core political, legal, economic and cultural institutions of the U.S. to be less barbarous and more equitable, inclusive and participatory.

According to political scientist Uday Chandra, “to resist is, in ordinary parlance, to oppose or fight off what is pernicious or threatening to one’s existence.” Resistance strategies can range from full on rebellion with the intent to reform or overthrow and existing social order, to simple forms of contestation and concessionary seeking acts of disobedience against institutions of power. Based on the beguiling nature of the nation’s origin story myths of universal freedom, equality and democracy or out of a desperate need to end long-term suffering, resistance in the U.S. has evolved to entail marginalized or subjugated individuals or groups actively seeking redress through government intervention. This by and large involves taking a defensive position in the pursuit of legal accommodations, which automatically renders emancipatory and revolutionary visions and objectives imperceptible, or to be strived for incrementally or a later time.

Historically, these efforts have most often leveraged the collective power of social movements as a means to expand recognition rights (protections) and representation (access) by and within institutions of power to ameliorate social, political, legal, cultural and economic conditions.

As such, resistance in the U.S. largely became associated with methods and outcomes that use the “master’s tools” to attain protections from the master’s cruelty by having access to the “the master’s house.” Otherwise known as “working within the system.” Chandra refers to these forms of resistance “as the negotiation rather than negation of social power.”

Most of these efforts have failed, while some resulted in mixed improvements in the quality of life for some, including small segments of populations that are persistently targeted. An example of this is middle-class Black and Brown Americans, who are insidiously held up as proof that the U.S. has become a post-racial society, a fictional narrative that couldn’t be further from the truth. Ultimately, progress that was made to substantively constrain or disrupt the hegemony of the nation’s core intersecting structures of heteropatriarchy, settler colonialism, white supremacy and capitalism have largely resulted in temporary “parchment barrier” policies. By design, the founders’ governing contract – the U.S. Constitution – and the infrastructural power that operationalizes it are designed to self-correct and bring the founders’ social order back in line when it is diverted from its intended aims.

The Nature of Power in the 21st Century

In the 21st century the ideology and directives of financialization rules over our lives, our societies and our planet. This autocratic system dictates a highly disciplined neoliberal landscape where state power structures and advanced technologies facilitate and protect the activities and interests of finance capitalism over all else. Financialization occurs via securitization, which, simply described, is a process where financial institutions bundle together (illiquid) financial assets – primarily debt instruments – and transform them into (liquid) tradable securities that can be expeditiously bought and sold in secondary financial markets. Within this insulated global network, high-frequency trading of digital securities – including “fictitious” trading, hedging and speculating in derivative markets – generates “phantom wealth”; whereby the exchange of capital, money and currency is detached from material or labor value. In the twenty-first century, debt is the new global currency and is a primary source of (intangible) wealth accumulation.

According to economist Gerald Epstein, financialization is centered on “speculative and excessively liquid financial flows that create debt-laden balance sheets, overly short-term perspectives, volatility and mispricing of important asset prices, including exchange rates, and subsequent misallocation of resources and unstable economic growth.” More to the point, the global financial system is based on a massive “spiral of debt.” Under the domain of financialization, investor activity requires the flow of various forms of credit that can be transformed into securitized assets and rapidly converted into cash (liquidity) without losing value. As Bloomberg Business put it, the three things that matter most in debt (bond) markets are “liquidity, liquidity and liquidity.” According to financial industry attorney Jake Zamansky, “without liquidity, markets plummet, as they did in late 2008 and early 2009. Liquidity is all important to investors. It’s oxygen to markets.” Thus, the only way for there to be “economic growth” is to inject more and more debt into the machine. This is what happened in the 2008 financial crisis (or “liquidity crisis”) and by most predictions, this same outcome is inevitable sooner than later, yet even more intensely since global debt has risen by $60 trillion since 2008. Essentially, any economic system that is based on debt will crumble.

Within this global landscape, national borders are largely inconsequential and financial markets are globally integrated, swift, complex and untamable. Financial exchanges are facilitated by global automated computers, which slice, bundle and flip securities at a pace and scale that exceeds the capacity of human capability. As anthropologist Patrick Wolfe put it in 1997:

    …how are we to conceive of a system that lacks exteriority? This question grows ever more insistent in a decentered era that we might term virtual imperialism, when radically de-territorialized forms of capital flash around the globe at fiber-optic speed, seeking out low wages, tax and tariff advantages, currency disparities, and innumerable other opportunities that presuppose the very nation-state boundaries that their exploitation transcends.

Since many dimensions of this state-finance nexus reaches deeply into the daily lives of billions of people across the globe in novel ways, daily patterns, choices and potential for resistance are apparent to, and an extension of, the global financial market. Sites and sources of resistance and compliance to this social order are conveyed through all digital activates and devices, connected to the sophisticated surveillance technologies of artificial intelligence as part of the ever expanding “Internet of Things.” More disturbingly, all of these integrated “date mining” activities are increasingly feeding financial speculation and derivative (bet) markets.

As an intangible sphere of wealth accumulation designed to facilitate both competition and cooperation between professional investors, this financialized ecosystem is virtually ungovernable. Even if state actors were motivated to stop, or effectively regulate this machine, they cannot for a number of reasons. First, the machine is structurally entwined with the interests of the most powerful and violent nation-states, particularly the United States. Second, any meaningful disruptions of the machine will crash the global economy. The state’s role to both deceptively and openly collude with finance were at play after the 2008 “liquidity crisis.” The federal government started by deregulating finance and thereafter protected risky financial activity, then bailed out the largest investment banks and devised the superficial parchment barrier that is the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

At the behest of this comprehensive and unaccountable web of power, the role of the state – particularly the U.S. – is more authoritarian than ever. Domestically, militarized austerity and sophisticated surveillance and penetrating security apparatuses is at its disposal and are part of everyday life for most Americans; even more so when resistance is deemed too disruptive to financial markets. As part of this, within the last several decades, finance capital and neoliberal states have learned from and adapted to dissent and resistance. Once tried and true tactics and strategies in the pursuit of state protections can now be effectively ignored, dismissed, tolerated, coopted and preempted. This reality, along with the diffuse power of global finance and its proxy authoritarian states render the pursuit of basic human needs and rights ineffective. Combined, these dynamics have extensively neutralized how resistance movements have historically leveraged power. Instead, the social order of neoliberal financialization predicts and integrates resistance into its risk speculations, which according to critical scholar Max Haiven is, “factored into financial flows in advance as ‘risk’: the present calculus of future probabilities.” Haiven goes on to explain:

    With this hyper-commodification of risk, finance has become a vast, interconnected, pulsating organ fed by billions of local readings of “liquidity” and “resistance” which are constantly coursing through the system, being decomposed and rebundled in patterns… [and] the final result is this: finance as we now have it, as a system that “reads” the world by calculating the “risk” of “resistance” to “liquidity” and allocating resources accordingly, already incorporates “resistance” into its “systemic imagination.

From UAW members in Ford plants resisting pension cuts, the Great Sioux Nation protecting its water from the fossil fuel industry, Indigenous revolutionary movements in Bolivia and Venezuela to a U.S. presidential candidate campaigning as a social democrat; finance capital “imagines” these (and many other) possibilities and their disruptive potentials so as to incorporate associated risks into its internal equilibrium. These calculations can then determine preemptive or subsequent interventions and disciplining actions. Thus, as Max Haiven points out, financial speculation is a means of “reading” and “indexing” resistance. Finance is also preventing future resistance through the application of economic performativity, which explains the ways that financial instruments can calculate and construct financial actualities that will shape and ensure the futures on which investors speculate. Impact investing and education reform (here and here) are two critical financial instruments that serve this purpose as social engineering mechanisms meant to reduce risk of resistance to maximize liquidity in futures markets.

As part of this, based on the logic of derivative speculation, “risk management” creates a paradigm of neoliberal biopolitics that sorts groups of people according to an economic pyramid that demarcates their market – and therefore their social – value. Those who are doing the sorting are the exalted risk-takers who “hedge” their subject position into wealth, power and prestige. In varied degrees everyone else is viewed as flexible workers and debt instruments to be exploited for the purposes of securitization, speculation and predictable cash flows. For those at the lower end (largely Black, Brown and Indigenous people), whose subject positions are assigned to perpetual austerity and criminalization; their value is derived from being subjugated and rigidly controlled sources of predictable cash flows, often through the funneling of government funds to wealthy financiers. A significant portion of these financialized instruments of social control focus on strengthening the carceral state (schools, jails, prisons, counterinsurgency policing, immigration detention centers, parole and probation offices, advanced surveillance technologies, etc); as well as predatory “anti-poverty” schemes such as social impact bonds, which are essentially derivatives or swaps (bets).

State-finance authoritarianism and repression through militarized austerity along with deeply penetrating surveillance and security apparatuses work in tandem with many forms of disciplining. School choice, charter schools, policed schools, standardized curriculum, punitive tests that sort students, determine funding as well as the fate of schools and teachers are forms of disciplining attached to the financialization of education. Finance also disciplines political, economic and social actors more directly. For example, if federal and state governments in the U.S. are compelled to reverse existing policies that serve neoliberal financialization and instead reinstitute Keynesian economic policies, or dare to move towards social democracy; financial markets would quickly interpret and respond to these moves by devaluing the U.S. dollar and bond prices while divesting from equity shares in “risky” ventures. This type of financial disciplining can easily lead to larger destabilization within the “house of cards” that is the financialized economy. While its existence is destructive, its disruption can also have catastrophic effects. Therefore, forms of viable “resistance” do not even need to be successful for the state and markets to preemptively intervene and discipline. The mechanisms for disciplining and maintaining social order are also ready-made and built into the structures of the founders’ U.S. cultural political economy. The hegemony of market ideology is often enough. If not, the U.S. Constitution’s function of safeguarding capitalist accumulation and private property rights, the undemocratic electoral college, the stacked federalist system of government, the corporate two-party system and its delegate scheme as well as the ability of capital to influence or direct social, cultural and political affairs (including “news”) also effectively quells substantive resistance. Additionally, as Max Haiven describes:

    …firms are increasingly pressured to increase exploitation and surveillance of workers, and attack union and workers rights, in order to improve their credit rating and share price. And local, regional and national governments are, in an age of austerity, compelled to destroy public power (invested in public space, welfare programs, civil services, public employment, and collective projects) in response to financial pressures and massive deficits (caused, in effect, by decades of corporate tax cuts and the massive transfer of public wealth into private hands.

Financial disciplining also applies to the daily life of families and individuals, where forms and levels of resistance to finance capital is moderated by employment, income, housing, transportation and food insecurity; individual debt; education expenditures; concerns about healthcare and saving for elderly years. Fears of disrupting any sites where these needs and concerns exist have an understandable chilling effect.

In sum, as subjects of this global empire, seeking relief or justice (as a legal concept) within state institutions and civil society is largely futile. In the 21st century, civil, political and economic rights (as functions of state protections) are more than ever at odds with the long-standing and intersecting interests of capitalism and white supremacy. Governments either function as proxies for finance capitalism or face being subjugated by it. This ensures that nation states are more unresponsive than ever to the needs and demands of those who reside within their borders, borders that are non-existent for elite financial investors and increasingly punitive for dispossessed groups. In this landscape, banks and other global financial institutions are setting and enforcing the rules that govern social relations in societies across the globe, including relations between states and their citizens. States have effectively become subjects of bond markets and Central Banks. These are the layers of power that operate above states and control what states can or cannot do. Essentially, the plutocrats of this global financial empire have no national loyalties, they possess no conscience, their domain knows no borders, their institutions have no center and their wealth has no real material value.

Reevaluating Resistance within the State-Finance Nexus

For emancipatory resistance movements in the 21st century to have a chance of being successful in the U.S., it is essential to first recognize the inherent structural barriers that have persistently restricted substantive or lasting social change. Therefore, it is time to reconsider resistance strategies that seek redress from an inherently violent state and to refocus our efforts away from working within a political and legal system that is “rigged” to preserve systems of domination. We must acknowledge the futility of seeking to transform the state (or its public spheres) into something that it was never intended to be – nor ever could be – based on it being the protector of the founders’ despotic cultural political economy, which is now even more intensely embodied by the state-finance empire of the 21st century.

In the absence of large-scale cohesive objectives that are revolutionary in nature and international in scope, at best resistance in the U.S. will continue to be reduced to ineffectual outlets and rituals of rage and have little real strategic value beyond groups experiencing a fleeting sense of solidarity and belonging. Tragically, this became the fate of organized labor in the U.S., but only after it largely evolved to reflect and embrace the structures of domination that it should have been resisting.

For those of us who are compelled to resist the various dimensions of the state-finance empire, we must first recognize its inherent ties to the foundational structures of the United States so as to abandon the ideologies that preserve them. This begins by repudiating the mythical origin story of the United States and the glorification of its duplicitous Constitution. Moreover, resistance must be more than a pragmatic undertaking that chases illusive state protections from a nation state that is despotically constituted. In essence, the foundational cultural political economy of the U.S. and its current globalized manifestation cannot be reformed and instead must be dismantled.

Still, it is important to honor the history of resistance against subjugation and struggles for state protections and emancipation in the U.S., for they are rich and vibrant, and often speak to Frederick Douglass’ 1857 declaration, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will.” Yet, the lesson attached to the Scorpion and the Frog fable is instructive in terms of fanciful strivings to transform the United States into a robustly democratic and equitable nation:

A scorpion asks a frog to carry him over a river. The frog voices her fear of being stung. The scorpion convinces the frog based on their shared interest to survive and get to the other side. The frog agrees. Midway across the river the scorpion stings the frog. When the frog asks the scorpion why, the scorpion replies… it’s my nature.

The underlying moral of the story is salient to what can be learned when the true history and character of the United States is unveiled: no change can be made in the character and behavior of the fundamentally vicious. Time and time again the foundational structures and institutions of the U.S. have proven to be just that, and much more.

Some say that to accept these understandings can lead to hopelessness, despair and apathy. Yet, to continue to believe in deceptive narratives that preserve fundamentally vicious constructs supports their intent: the suppression of creative forms of resistance guided by emancipatory imageries that forge lasting solidarities and the establishment of holistic and equitable approaches to organizing society. To be clear, the current structures of domination are on their own unsustainable and will in time collapse with dire consequences for all life on the planet then, and in the process of getting there. It is imperative for resistance strategies here and now to be guided by this understanding, with a focus on expediting the inevitable collapse, yet with significant ecological and humanistic infrastructure at the ready. Moreover, resistance here and now require us to focus our efforts on developing sites of resistance and alternative institutions that are grounded in environmental sustainability and emancipatory cultures, primarily led by those who are persistently subjugated by the current systems of domination.

These strategies therefore require revolutionary objectives that envision societies without national borders which divide and dehumanize and are rooted in the principles of participatory parity, collectivism, status equality and the equitable distribution of wealth. This vision is anchored by a fundamentally different construct of the public sphere, one that is constituted by a cultural political economy that is the antithesis of white supremacy capitalism, settler colonialism and heteropatriarchy.

Tim Scott is an educator, critical theorist and social worker who has been a community and union activist and organizer for nearly 20 years. This work has involved holding union leadership and staff positions (lead organizer and field rep); anti-racism work; global justice organizing (“anti-globalization movement”) within international networks resisting IMF/World Bank/free-trade/structural adjustment policies; harm reduction advocacy within LGBTQ networks; resisting US/UN Iraq Sanctions; Single-Payer Health Care organizing; anti-war/Counter Military Recruitment work; grass-roots media (radio & publication) and being a public education activist. Read other articles by Tim.
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Offline jdwheeler42

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Re: Violence and Nonviolence As a Tactic and Strategy in Social Protest
« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2017, 11:52:48 AM »
For as long as their strategy lacks any real potential to fundamentally challenge class bias and status quo; as long as such a strategy is devoid of the true ability to deconstruct the economic and cultural system that allows for the establishment of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie; as long as this strategy takes on a language of righteous and pious revolution, these self-loathing activities of a physical comfort can go to sleep at night both feeling redeemed through their rebellion and secure in knowing their tacitly oppressive luxury will be there for them again, tomorrow.
While agreeing with the general philosophy, I would point out that violent face to face confrontation with the fascist forces is not tactically smart.  Far better to lob a petrol bomb through the window of a bank, or a court house, or a Government office, at an unanticipated time, than to organise a violent mass confrontation on Facebook next Saturday at 11 am. 

Such actions are easily recognised for what they are, and easily copyable without any need for coordination.  No need for a Facebook account, which is deletable anyway, if not traceable and bug-able.  No need for being on a register of firearms owners.  Impossible to police completely, and very expensive to police even partially.

What it SHOULDN'T do is hurt any of the people who are your potential revolutionaries.  Have them cheer at the TV coverage instead.
I think the philosophy is completely silly.  They are totally prepared for violence in any form, and ready to respond in kind.

What they are scared shitless of is people becoming self-reliant and not needing the system anymore.

Look at the damage termites do -- by the time it is noticeable, it is very extensive.
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Offline K-Dog

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Re: Violence and Nonviolence As a Tactic and Strategy in Social Protest
« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2017, 01:27:36 PM »
People will not be becoming self reliant in any significant numbers.  I doubt 'they' are scared shitless about that.  'They' are looking to quell any disturbance of the peace which would threaten their control.  That is what 'they' are getting paid to do.  The errant nail will be hammered down.
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